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Spinal stenosis is a specific condition characterized by the narrowing of spaces in the spine. This narrowing results in pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots which can lead to a number of problems, depending on the nerves which are affected.

In great majority of patients, spinal stenosis is accompanied with cramping, pain or numbness in legs, back, neck, shoulders or arms; a loss of sensation in extremities; and sometimes problems with bladder or bowel function.

In most cases the mild symptoms of spinal stenosis are often helped by pain relievers, physical therapy or a supportive brace. However, in more serious cases of spinal stenosis, doctors may recommend surgery.

This disorder usually involves the narrowing of one or more of three areas of the spine:

1.    The narrowing can affect the canal in the center of the column of bones through which the spinal cord and nerve roots run. It is also called a central vertebral canal!
2.    This narrowing can also affect the canals at the base or roots of nerves branching out from the spinal cord
3.    The openings between vertebrae through which nerves leave the spine and go to other parts of the body can also be affected. The narrowing may involve a small or large area of the spine.

The pressure on the lower part of the spinal cord or on nerve roots branching out from that area may give rise to pain or numbness in the legs. Pressure on the upper part of the spinal cord may produce similar symptoms in the shoulders, or even the legs.

Different types of stenosis

There are three different types of stenosis and they include:

Foraminal stenosis
When a bone spur presses on the nerve root in the point where it is about to leave the canal through a side hole we have foraminal stenosis. It is also called lateral spinal stenosis.

This is by far the most common form of spinal stenosis and 72% of cases of foraminal stenosis occur at the lowest lumbar level.

Central stenosis
If the narrowing of the central canal compress the sack of the horse’s tail called cauda equina the condition is called central stenosis. Central spinal stenosis is more common at the second lowest lumbar spinal level and above.

Far Lateral stenosis
This is not such a common type of stenosis. In this case the nerve is compressed on the outside of the spine after it has left the spinal canal. The cause of compression could be from either a bony protrusion or disc bulge.

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